As the NFL's head of officiating for 10 years, Mike Pereira spent most of his career defending the so-called "tuck rule" – a rule that Oakland Raiders fans still curse. Now Pereira is finally reversing his field.
Pereira, currently an analyst for FOX Sports, writes that he believes it's time to change the rule that requires officials to call an incomplete pass when a quarterback's arm is moving forward and he loses possession of the ball, even if it's clear he's fumbling and not trying to tuck away the ball.
"I think it's time to change this rule," Pereira wrote on the FOXSports.com web site. "A pass should only be ruled incomplete if the ball comes loose in the actual act of passing the ball. If it comes loose in the tucking motion, then it should be a fumble."
Pereira revealed his new stance while writing about a third-quarter pass by Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel in Sunday's playoff game with the Baltimore Ravens. Cassel was hit by Ravens cornerback Ladarius Webb and the ball came loose. At first, it was ruled a fumble, with the Ravens recovering. But after Chiefs coach Todd Haley challenged the call, it was reversed and called an incomplete pass.
"This was clearly a correct reversal," Pereira wrote, "but is it time to look at this rule? Cassel was not attempting to pass the ball when it came loose. By instinct, referee Mike Carey ruled this a fumble because that's what it appeared to be."
The rule, of course, came into being in 2002 when Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson sacked New England Patriots QB Tom Brady in an AFC divisional playoff game, causing a fumble that the Raiders recovered. But after reviewing the play, officials determined that Brady's arm was moving forward, and the Patriots regained the ball. They moved into field-goal range, and Adam Vinatieri tied the game, which the Pats won in overtime.
Pereira says he would support a rule change, adding, "I'm sure it's no consolation to the many Raiders fans around the country."